A sea of beds and babies January 01 2015, 2 Comments

Sweet boy was 3 days old and hadn't passed his meconium.  He needed to poop.  My mom happened to be working that day.  I had just been sent home late the night before, but I managed to make it to St Ann's in time for the morning rounds.  I walked through the door and proudly delivered the liquid gold (breastmilk) I had worked so hard for during the night which was probably only 1 oz at that point.  I clearly remember standing next to his bed ready to hear the plan as the attending Neonatologist, Dr. Snyder, (who I eventually came to really like and highly respect) stood over him with his clip board.  He proceeded to go down the list of worst case scenarios. Then he said something like, "…and he's got this smallish chin, floppy ears, pronounced nose….". I knew he was headed down the possible genetic syndrome path, which the realistic part of my brain understood.  But, the emotional mommy part of my brain was more powerful.  This was my baby he was talking about and it felt as if he was tearing Bryer apart feature by feature and issue by issue.  Knowing what I know now, that was not Dr. Synder's intent.  He was simply presenting the facts and wasn't about sugar coating.  At all.  Which I came to respect…eventually. But I was as brand new as Bryer when it came to being a NICU mommy, and lest we forget I was 3 days post partum which equates to being a fragile, hormonal mess.  At any rate, it was all I could do to hold it together.  I just nodded.  He finished and moved to the next baby which was only about 3 feet away.  Not knowing what I should do with myself, I gathered my pump parts and went to the sink to wash them, which was right next to some of the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner's desks.  The plan to busy myself and deflect my emotions failed horribly and I stood there sobbing while furiously scrubbing and rinsing.   Valerie, one of the NNP's, came over and put her arm around me and said, "Don't get caught up in the worst case scenarios, Carey."  She hugged me for a second.  It was enough to help gather myself and get on with it.  

Later that day, when I got home, I received a call from Dr. Snyder, which I found out later, he typically doesn't do.  I think he may have felt bad about how rounds went that morning.   Yeah, there's no way he didn't notice my breakdown at the sink.  His tone was much more gentle.    

*Writing this makes me smile thinking about him:)  We would go on to have MANY more morning rounds and MANY more in-depth conversations.  I came to respect his direct and non-sugary ways because I could see the pursuit for answers in the details.  He could rattle off Bryer's latest labs (which was a lot), meds and stats lickity-split with out a glance at his notes and then turn and compare them to days before from memory.  He mutually came to respect me for all the push back, questions and challenging I did.  I can still hear his voice as he stepped into our bed spot to begin rounds, "This is Brryyer". *

He called to say that he thought it was best that Bryer be transferred downtown to Nationwide Children's to be near surgeons because of his possible bowel obstruction.  I was upset.  I did not want him to have to go there.  St. Ann's, I was familiar with.  I knew the nurses there who my mom had worked with for 30 years.  My mom worked on that floor. It was a convenient 15 min from our house.  NCH seemed like forever away in comparison and just a completely foreign world.  

"Ok."  I reluctantly agreed.  

By the time transfer orders came, it was late.  My mom was still there and said it would be best if Justin and I met Bryer down at Nationwide.  She took care of things on his end at St. Ann's.  

Our first drive down there was together, which would become a rarity.  We didn't have a clue where to park.  The underground longterm parking garage, where we'd eventually get an "extended stay" pass, seemed like it was closed.  When in actuality, it just had a little garage door that would open and shut with motion detection.  So we parked randomly and went to the front desk. We didn't even know where the NICU was!  She informed us of the parking garage, so we re-parked underground and rode the elevators up, walked passed all the little wagons and followed that blue line.  We got our first P badge, but it was just a sticker at this point.  It seemed deserted. It was so quiet, must have been around 11pm.  By the time we got up to the NICU, we were informed we needed to stay in the waiting room as Bryer was getting situated and evaluated.  They'd let us know when they were ready for us.  We sat quietly and waited.  I was anxious and felt the need to pump.  

Finally, they called us back.  Walking onto that unit...Wow, what a vast change from St. Ann's.  It was HUGE and dim.  Most all the babies were tucked-in or being fed, except for the ones in emergent situations which you could see in plain sight as the bright lights blazed and many doctors were randomly dispersed and huddled at their bed-spots.  

It was a sea of beds and babies.  

We  neatly signed our names in for the first time, then I bee-lined for bed 33. The curtain was open.  I saw Cow before I saw Bryer's face.  Our first nicu nurse was named Janelle.  She seemed young, athletic and on top of things. Just my first impression.  In that moment, I was just so overcome with the need to touch him and talk to him letting him know Mommy was there.  He was completely settled and all that did was completely stir him up.  So, I talked MORE and sang MORE to him hunched over his little bed in an effort to calm him.

Soon, I felt Janelle behind me.  I sensed I needed to move out of the way.  

I stepped aside.  I then witnessed my first unspoken lesson in the NICU.  She stood over him silently.  She simply put her left hand on top of his head and her right hand on the bottom of both feet and held them…putting slight pressure as if she were bringing both of her hands closer together.  I swear if you had listened closely you would have heard the faint sound a lightsaber makes coming from each of her hands…"wwoommmm".  Magic.  It was amazing. Within a couple minutes he had completely settled again.  I later learned it's called containment.  Small babies like it - it makes them feel secure.  Noted.  

Each day I learned a little more of the rules, both unspoken and spoken, of this new world we were now in.

A little later, I asked Janelle to hold him and there we snuggled for the first of many times at Bed 33.  It was during that time, two surgeons came by who explained what would be cause for surgery, what they were looking for and what tests they would run. Because of his bowel situation, he'd be on gut rest and be receiving TPN - which is nutrition via IV.  

That meant no more attempts at breastfeeding.  That was difficult to swallow.  

The surgeons left us.  With Bryer still tucked into my bra and against my skin, I put my cheek on his little head and I cried.  I cried at the thought of him needing surgery.  Looking back, if only that surgery is all he would have needed.  I would tell my then-self to stop it.  Perspective, Carey!  But it's nothing I had developed yet.  No, my perspective was only in the beginning stages of being crafted.  

It was very difficult leaving him that night.  It just didn't seem right.  Driving away, I looked back at such a big, almost majestic, place.  I remember thinking, "Wow, my baby is in there somewhere and I am driving away."